Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) responded Monday to accusations by former Secretary of State Colin Powell that there is a "dark vein of intolerance in some parts of the [Republican] Party." The Republican Party is "not an intolerant party," Rubio said.
Republicans "still sort of look down on minorities," Powell explained Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press." As evidence of this, Powell referenced former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin's use of the phrase "shuckin' and jivin,'" "a racial era slave term," when she described President Barack Obama's response to attacks in Libya and former New Hampshire Gov. John Sununu calling Obama "lazy" after the first presidential debate.
"He didn't say he was slow, he was tired, he didn't do well; he said he was 'lazy.' Now, it may not mean anything to most Americans, but to those of us who are African Americans, the second word is 'shiftless,' and then there's a third word that goes along with it."
Powell also mentioned the "birther movement," which claims that Obama was not born in the United States, as evidence of Republican racism. Republican leaders should not tolerate those types of discussions within the party, Powell suggested. The Republican Party needs to understand that "the country is changing demographically," Powell said, and if it does not it is "going to be in trouble."
Powell endorsed Obama in the last two elections. He added that he is still a Republican, but described himself as a moderate and complained that the party has moved too far in a conservative direction.
When asked about the comments Monday on "The Andrea Tantaros Show," Rubio, a Cuban-American, praised Powell's service to the country but disagreed with his assessment of the party. (Audio of the radio show was posted to The Daily Caller website.)
"The Republican Party that I know ... is not an intolerant party," Rubio said.
While admitting that some individuals in the party hold racist sentiments, he suggested that is true of the Democratic Party as well. He also noted that the Republican Party has elected two Latinos to the U.S. Senate, himself and Sen. Ted Cruz (Texas), and there is now a black Republican in the Senate after S.C. Governor Nikki Haley appointed Rep. Tim Scott to replace Sen. Jim DeMint.
"I've never once felt that the Republican Party was unwelcoming to me because of my heritage or my background," Rubio added.